February 16, 2023

Cortez Masto, Hoeven Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Tribal Law Enforcement, Help Combat MMIW Crisis

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)  and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen Tribal law enforcement and increase public safety throughout Indian Country. The Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act would support Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement recruitment and retention, increase the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources, and give Tribes and states resources to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Cortez Masto has championed efforts to combat the MMIW crisis and keep Native Americans safe. She passed the bipartisan Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act, which were signed into law to protect Native women and girls, and has repeatedly advocated for additional federal funding to help Tribal communities combat violence. 

“I’m doing all I can to ensure that Tribal law enforcement agencies have what they need to serve their communities, recruit and train officers, and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My bill will give Tribal law enforcement access to more federal resources and improve coordination across agencies, strengthening public safety and protecting Native families.”

“Supporting Tribal law enforcement officers and agencies better equips them to serve their communities and keep the public safe,” said Senator Hoeven, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “Our bill includes bipartisan legislation I previously introduced to allow BIA to conduct their own background checks on applicants, helping get more officers on the job. The BADGES for Native Communities Act is about improving public safety and enhancing available resources in Tribal communities.”

The BADGES for Native Communities Act includes provisions to do the following:

  • Increase Tribal access to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) by requiring Tribal facilitators to conduct ongoing Tribal outreach and serve as a point of contact for Tribes and law enforcement agencies, as well as conduct training and information gathering to improve the resolution of missing persons cases.
  • Require a report on Tribal law enforcement needs, including staffing, replacement and repairs for corrections facilities, infrastructure and capital for tribal police and court facilities, and emergency communication technology.
  • Allow the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to conduct its own background checks for law enforcement officer applicants in order to improve officer recruitment.
  • Establish a grant program to support states, Tribes, and Tribal organizations in the coordination of efforts related to missing and murdered persons cases and sexual assault cases.
  • Evaluate federal law enforcement evidence collection, handling, and processing crucial to securing conviction of violent offenders.
  • Ensure BIA officers and Tribal police have access to culturally appropriate mental health and wellness programs.

Senator Cortez Masto has repeatedly called on the administration to do more to address the epidemic of violence against Native women and girls, including securing federal funding to protect Native communities, urging the administration to draft a plan to address this issue, and requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the federal response to this crisis. She’s also fought to ensure that law enforcement officers across the country have the support they need. She secured historic funding for the Byrne JAG grant program in the FY2022 omnibus. The program is the leading source of criminal justice funding for state, local, and Tribal governments and provides support for programs related to crime prevention, law enforcement, prosecution, corrections, and mental and behavioral health.